Magma trailblazes Malaysia’s dynamic hospitality landscape

The company embarks on a journey of transformation to meet the changing needs of guests and ensure long-term sustainability 

by RADZI RAZAK 

AS MALAYSIA rebuilds its hospitality industry in the aftermath of Covid-19, key players like Magma Group Bhd are at the forefront of driving recovery and growth. 

The challenges posed by the pandemic prompted a period of introspection and innovation within the industry. 

With a strategic focus on adapting to evolving consumer preferences, embracing digital transformation and implementing stringent health and safety measures, the hospitality sector is gradually regaining momentum. 

Magma, recognising the need to redefine its approach, embarked on a journey of transformation to meet the changing needs of guests and ensure long-term sustainability. 

Moreover, the government’s initiatives to revive tourism, such as “Visit Perak Year 2024” and the introduction of visa-free regimes for select countries, are contributing to the sector’s recovery efforts. 

These initiatives aim to stimulate domestic and international travel, thereby creating opportunities for hotels and resorts to increase occupancy rates and revenue streams. 

As the hospitality industry continues to navigate the challenges of a post-pandemic landscape, collaboration and innovation will be key drivers of success. 

By fostering partnerships with local communities, embracing sustainable practices, and staying attuned to evolving consumer trends, companies like Magma are poised to play a pivotal role in Malaysia’s hospitality industry resurgence. 

Liang says the vision of tomorrow is not just material- based, but also for the profit of the next generation of Malaysians as well

In a candid and insightful interview, Magma Group Bhd MD Datuk Seri Thomas Liang Chee Fong outlined the company’s evolution, challenges and strategic vision. 

Magma, a distinguished Malaysia-based investment holding company with a predominant focus on the hospitality industry, has recently undergone significant transformations. 

Despite hurdles, the company stands poised for strategic growth, underpinned by its unwavering commitment to excellence and resilience. 

“Our journey signifies more than just a change in name; it represents our commitment to redefining excellence in the hospitality sector,” Liang told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR). 

Formerly known as Impiana Hotels Bhd, the investment holding company rebranded to Magma Group Bhd in December 2023, marking a pivotal shift in strategic focus while upholding its core values. 

Liang elucidated the company’s diversified business segments, predominantly revolving around hospitality management and development. 

The company’s portfolio encompasses the management and operation of hotels and resorts, property investment and hotel development.

This included a protracted legal battle with Public Bank Bhd. The civil suit filed by Public Bank against Magma’s subsidiary, Astaka Mekar Sdn Bhd, and related parties, presented formidable challenges.

However, a turning point emerged when the court granted permission for Public Bank to withdraw the suit in January 2024, signalling the cessation of a protracted legal battle.

This development liberates Magma from constraints, providing a platform to recalibrate focus and strategies for future growth opportunities. 

“The withdrawal of the legal suit by Public Bank marks a significant milestone for Magma, enabling us to refocus our efforts on strategic growth initiatives,” Liang said. 

Wolo is Magma’s chance to imprint what the company wants in its hotel, says MD (pic: Wolo’s Facebook)

Instilling Design Culture 

Of notable mention is the recent lease agreement for Wolo Kuala Lumpur hotel to Magma for three years, effective from January 2024, which further strengthens the company’s foothold in the hospitality sector. Liang said Wolo is Magma’s chance to imprint what the company wants in its hotel.

Proud of the work Magma put forth in the hotel — located at the prime area of Kuala Lumpur’s golden triangle in Bukit Bintang, Liang said the company internal interior design firm IDP Design & Build (M) Sdn Bhd has created a unique design, encompassing local Malaysian culture such as pua kumbu and pewter trinkets from the Royal Selangor. 

“It has a very unique design, a very sophisticated yet classic design so that when people walk into that hotel, it is not just like any hotel, it brings in a very different feel,” he said. 

Other than Wolo, the group also currently operates Impiana Hotels in Kuala Lumpur, Senai (Johor) and Ipoh (Perak) — the last of which is formerly named Casuarina Hotel. 

Liang also said Magma will be opening several more hotels in Penang, Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak starting this year. 

It is also currently renovating an old hotel in the central Georgetown Penang, which was named the Towne House Hotel, an old hotel that seemed to be stuck in the 1980s with charms. 

Coming from a small city in Perak himself, Liang said the group will instil its own charm to ensure guests remember their stay. 

“The hotel industry is very challenging today. We need guests to have such a memorable experience that when they go home, they will think about that hotel again. 

“And this is what we successfully built in the mind of our clients,” he said. 

Other than hotels, Magma also operates a beef specialty restaurant named Yakiniku Great which offers premium rare cuts of Wagyu beef. 

So far, Liang said there are two branches of the restaurant, namely at Damansara Heights and Wolo Kuala Lumpur, with plans to open more branches in the future. 

He said the group is also preparing to receive millions of visitors coming in from this year onwards. 

Other than hotels, Magma also operates a beef specialty restaurant named Yakiniku Great which offers premium rare cuts of Wagyu beef (pic source: Wolo Kuala Lumpur)

With the government already announcing the visa exemption for tourists from two of the world’s largest countries — China and India — Liang said they are gearing up for events in conjunction with Visit Perak 2024, the Asean Conference 2025 before culminating in the Visit Malaysia 2026. 

“We are getting ready for 2026. We believe that the hospitality industry can only grow; it can grow faster and better,” he added. 

Liang was optimistic despite challenges such as the increment in the Sales and Services Tax (SST) as he expressed confidence in the hospitality industry’s resurgence in Malaysia. 

Citing insights from the Malaysian Hospitality Investment Intentions Survey 2023 by Knight Frank, he underscored the renewed optimism among hotel owners and investors, as well as projections indicating an upsurge in demand for accommodations and sustained healthy occupancy levels in 2024 and 2025. 

“Our optimism is anchored in the resilience of Malaysia’s hospitality industry and the renewed confidence among investors and hotel owners,” he said. 

Visions for Future Generations 

Looking ahead, Magma is poised to capitalise on emerging opportunities and solidify its position as a trailblazer in the Malaysian hospitality industry. 

With a steadfast focus on extending the reach of Impiana Hotels and fortifying recognition for local hospitality brands, the company is primed for sustainable growth under the leadership of Liang and his partner Datuk Seri Lee Hock Seng. 

“Our trajectory is defined by a relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation, underpinned by our unwavering commitment to societal enrichment,” the former affirmed. 

Liang said the vision of tomorrow is not just material-based, but also for the profit of the next generation of Malaysians as well. 

“We are looking into ways to amalgamate green tourism as well. We also have our restaurants and property management, and we are putting all these formulas together as one. 

“This is our vision for tomorrow, for the generations to come,” he said. 


This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition